Take your mind off the gas pedal

namaste license plate

As is often the case, today’s blog post was inspired by a conversation with a friend.  Ironically, we were discussing the topic of yesterday’s post, Refilling your patience carafe.’  We were talking about keeping our cool when despite our best efforts to maintain a peaceful attitude, life still comes at you.

He told me about a recent incident he had when he was in the car with his kids, and found himself to be the object of someone’s road rage.  At first he was able to rise above, but the other driver had long gone ’round the bend’ (pun intended), and soon he found himself feeling taken over by the same frustration. He was able to stay out of the chaos, because he was concerned most with his children’s safety, but was still seething long after he’d gotten of the road.

How often do we relinquish control of our happiness or unhappiness to someone else?  When we allow someone else to control us, we’re really just giving ourselves over to ego, to the monkey mind.  “How dare he do that to me?”  “Who does she think she is?”  “I’m never going to pass that test.” “Where am I going to find the money for that?”

When we replay conversations or situations that didn’t sit right with us over and over, it’s like we’re stepping on a thought accelerator.  And once you find yourself in this obsessive ’round about’ it’s hard to see the exit. How often are we really just mind racing ourselves?

I found myself in a sort of ‘thought loop’ the other day, and decided to take an online class with Marc Holzman targeted at grounding yourself after a hectic day.

The poses were delicious, of course, but it was a quote he kept repeating that really helped me to let go.  The saying had been passed to his teacher from the Maharashi, and then passed down to him

“Oh my mind, be kind to me.”

Sometimes something as simple as an inspiring quote can unlock a new door.  I love this quote, and will definitely incorporate it often into my practice and my teaching.

How else can we find our way out of the roundabout?  Be aware of your physical and emotional reaction without trying to change it.  Awareness is distance from attachment. And give your mind something to do like focus on your breath.

The breath tells us a lot about the mind.  If your breath is wobbly, labored or short, so goes your mental state. You can begin to let your mind off of the gas pedal and cruise by witnessing your own breath.

May your mind be kind to you, and your breath help you shift into neutral.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Recycledartco / Etsy)

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Refilling your patience carafe

wine carafe

At some point, we all struggle with patience. It’s definitely not one of my strong suits. In fact, I was recently joking to a friend about those days when it feels as if you have a finite amount of patience, and when it’s gone it’s gone — like a carafe of wine. This, of course, let to a hilarious philosophical discussion about how our carafe’s depth varies from day to day and that we have a seemingly infinite supply of patience in our carafes when it comes to animals, children, and students.

Some days, the carafe is overflowing and all seems right with the world, while others it seems to have a crack and a slow leak. Some days, my carafe is quite plentiful in the morning, but by evening rush hour, it’s dry as a bone, and I watch the last drop dry up from the seat of my inner witness. Sometimes, merely bringing attention to the fact that our patience is challenged, releases the ego’s grasp on our need ‘rightness’ or vindication.

So, how do we keep ourselves from draining our carafe of patience Bordeaux dry? By doing things that replenish your spirit. Taking some time for yourself — even five minutes — to do what brings you peace and rejuvenation can keep you from feeling depleted and drained of loving energy. For some people, it’s a bubble bath alone with a book, and for others it’s prayer.

For me, it’s writing, meditation, spending time with my dogs, and of course, yoga.  I need the time on the mat to ground and center myself, and reconnect with my true nature so that my thoughts, words, and actions come from a place of compassion.

Take time each day to practice the same loving kindness towards yourself that you want to extend outward. Refill your carafe everyday, so it’s available when you need to pour a big glass of patience to someone else. And practice non-judgement and non-violence toward yourself during those times when you can’t seem to harness the patience you think you should have.

What refills your carafe of patience?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Design Rulz)

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Be nice to the scary clown

cant sleep clown will eat me bart simpson

When I was little, I was horrified of clowns. Truthfully they still unsettle me a little bit.

I don’t know how or when it started, but when I think about it anything that falls into the “adult dressed as giant cartoon character” genre put me off.

The funny thing was I had this belief that if I had a clown, and took very good care of it, somehow I would be protected by the evil of all clowns.

So, I would go above and beyond the call of niceness to my clown doll even over other stuffed animals even though I was horrified by its unsettling smile. I would overcome my fear, by embracing it and trying to love it as a part of me.

As an adult I look back and laugh at the rationale of my five-year-old mind. And at the same time, I can find a thread of yogic wisdom in my childhood mentality.

As adults, we become conditioned by life to repel situations that make us uncomfortable or create anxiety. As a child I not only embraced the notion of letting go of aversion, I surmounted it by holding my single largest fear closest to me; looking it squarely in the creepy face each night.

And while my motivation was more self-serving at first, (to avoid the wrath of all clowns by befriending one) I had eventually desensitized myself to the physical sensation and reactions of my clown-based fear. And Clarabelle became nothing more than another doll.

We can do this as adults too.  We can look our fears right in the eye,  realize that it’s our mind telling us to be afraid, accept the object for what it is, and create space around that fear.  Not space like a buffer to protect us, but the space that allows us to realize our fear is separate from ourselves.

Replace your fear with curiosity.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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Don’t get a grip, lose it

loosen your grip, let go

Buddhists believe that life means suffering, a suffering of our own doing as human beings. They also believe that attachment or desire is the source of our suffering, and we can put an end to it. In yoga, non-attachment is one of the Yoga Sutras on the path to Samadhi or pure consciousness. In Christianity it’s called faith.  Trust in God and you can let go.  And we know this.  Innately, we all know this, but it’s hard to let go isn’t it?

Attachment is desire, desire is expectation, expectation is non-presence, and living in non-presence creates suffering. Attachment doesn’t just mean physical holding, but the expectation of anything, which inevitably leads to either disappointment (suffering) or transient happiness (not joy).

The next time you find yourself anxious, angry or even amorous, see if you can find the attachment. Where is the ego driving the bus?  Can you   allow yourself to let go, just a little?  Make space for the next time you need to let go.

“Loosen your grasp a little, and remember: whatever you hold onto is already dead, because it is past. Die to every moment and you will discover the gate to unending life.” ~Deepak Chopra

Holding onto what ISN’T is like trying to bottle lightning. Lose your death grip on the reality your mind has created, and fall into the abliss.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Shiny  Starlight)

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Rethink your limits

limitless

If you haven’t seen this TED video talk by Amy Purdy who lost her legs and went on to become a professional snowboarder, grab some tissues and get ready to rethink the limits you tell yourself you have.

Without limits.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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Use what you have

use what you have

Every few months I take inventory of my ‘stuff’. I peruse my closet for clothes and shoes that are better served as donations;  I take a trip down ‘expiration date’ lane and go through vitamins, prescriptions, lotions, makeup, etc.; and, I take inventory of my physicality. That is, what am I not using very much that I SHOULD, what am I afraid to let go of, and what should change?

Let’s face it, when you hit 40, your body changes.  The exercises that used to come easy, may be the ones that could now cause injury.  And the workouts we shy away from, might just be what cures an ache or pain.

Not too long ago, I was a die-hard Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) junkie.  My mornings consisted of an asana practice that featured a lot of sun salutations with standing, balancing, twisting and inversion poses mixed in, but I noticed that injuries were creeping in.  “Is yoga bad for me?” I wondered?  No, my practice had become, in itself, a samskara — a pattern that wasn’t serving me anymore.

After some assessment, I found that I was gravitating to poses that were easy much to the demise of other parts of my body.  I also noticed that I was avoiding poses that caused pain — and rightly so. But, I decided to investigate the root cause rather than give up altogether.  I’ve since made adjustments to my practice that are specific to my body’s needs, and try to mix it up regularly.

While yoga IS very beneficial for everyone, it’s not once size fits all.  We all can’t be Kathryn Budig (God love her), but like she says, we can “aim true.”

Take stock of your life — physcially, spiritually, emotionally, and posessions-ally. Get rid of what no longer serves you, and use what you have to your fullest (safest) potential.

Namaste,

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: A Lifetime of Wisdom)

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Yoga when you can’t do yoga

sick teddy bear yoga when you're sick

Time and time again, a yoga practice of asana and meditation have proven to help people get healthier in mind and body. But having and keeping a healthy body sometimes means recognizing when it’s time to modify our yoga practice. If you’ve ever had a migraine, the flu, an injury or something else, you know that it can be hard to keep up with a yoga practice and that’s an important message to receive from your body.

As the song goes, you gotta know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.  When we get a nice momentum or groove going it can be frustrating to take a step back for rest, but rest is important — especially when you’re sick. And then comes the dreaded ego sneaking in with messages like, “You can do it, it’s all in your head” or “If you take a break now, you’ll never get back into it” or even “If I want to look like Jennifer Aniston, I have to push myself.” None of which are factual or helpful.

I like this post from Mary Catherine Starr, yoga instructor &  studio director in Arlington, VA.  She writes about her own struggle with maintaining a yoga practice during a sinus infection, and has some great tips on how to practice when you can’t practice.

This inability to do exactly what I love when it comes to asana and the abundance of sick or sniffly people around me got me thinking, how do you still “practice” yoga when your’re under the weather? I have a few ideas, pulling from what I’ve actually done over the past week, and thought I would share them with you today. But let me also say that these tips are for people who are struggling with seasonal allergies or sinus infections–for people who, like me, can still go about their day, albiet uncomfortably, but are just under the weather enough to be unable to practice–not those who are so weak that they’re stuck in bed or unable to do much of anything.

Read the full post ‘Yoga for when you can’t do yoga‘ on her blog, Starr Struck.  And, here are some great yoga poses for when you have a cold from Yoga Journal. When all else fails, approach your practice like a beginner.  Once your’e feeling better, take it back to square one. Allow your body to re-experience the newness of yoga and get reacquainted with the poses.

The most important thing to remember is that yoga ISN’T just about physical poses.  When you’re sick or rundown, expand your meditation and pranayama practice (if it’s accessible).  Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of reminding you that there’s more to your practice than asana. Try some guided meditations or transcendental meditation in place of asana (or shorten your asana practice and opt for a longer meditation.)

It is better to perform one’s own duties imperfectly than to master the duties of another. By fulfilling the obligations he is born with, a person never comes to grief. ~ Krishna from The Bhagavad Gita

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Suddenly Susan)

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Walk the plank of life with acceptance

walking the plank

It’s funny how life has a way of smacking you upside the head with messages if you’re awake to them.  I shared a quote on Google+ that I saw recently, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” ~Thomas Jefferson. But then someone responded to my post with this and I loved it even more, “When you reach the end of your rope, Let Go.” ~Buddhism.

Acceptance can be tricky.  Easy to say, often hard to do. The catch-22 is that the one thing that is hardest for us to accept, will set us free when we do. Some people struggle with accepting divorce, others with loss, and others have a hard time accepting that their life just didn’t turn out like they thought it would, and it’s the struggle itself that causes much our suffering. For me, it’s managing a chronic illness. Continue reading

Confessions from a germaphobic yogi

cartoon germs under microscope

As I’ve said before, no amount of sun salutations or meditation will change who you are, but rather allow you to accept ALL that you are without judgement or derision.  I accept all that I am, including my germicidal tendencies. My best friend and I joke about our shared quirk, what gives us the heebie jeebies and how to get past them.  It’s my mountain to climb, folks. I’ll meet you at base camp.

My ‘concern’ about germs started after I was hospitalized with a respiratory infection a decade ago.  And, thanks countless blogs and hidden camera television shows about ‘where germs lurk’, I’m pretty much a regular hand washer and microbe sheriff.  On a scale of 1 to Howard Hughes, I’d say I’m about a 6 or 7. I do what I can to stay healthy in a world of colds and flu.  That said, I find the Niyama ‘Saucha’ right up my alley.

A clean yogi is a Saucha yogi

Saucha is often translated to mean cleanliness, clarity, purity or even simplicity. Foundationally, saucha is concerned with keeping different energies distinct, and protects the sanctity of the energy around us.  Part of this has to do with the physical plane and how we treat our bodies and our surroundings. I think I’ve got this one down.

Day-to-day practice & teaching  

So what’s a germaphobic yogi to do? On a day to day basis, I exercise common sense mixed with ayurveda.  I shower everyday, use a neti pot to keep my sinus passages clean, I wash my hands before I eat, after I go to the bathroom, after I shake someone’s hand, stay home when I’m sick, and I keep my surroundings clean.  In my personal asana practice, I use incense to clear the air of negative energy, I practice pranayama to rid my lungs of toxins, I clean my mat, and I put away my props.

When I teach, I try to create a healthy environment free of germs. I protect myself and students by washing my hands between classes — particularly if I’ve done any hands-on adjusting. On a larger level, I encourage students to leave shoes by the door when they enter and to put away their props and leave the studio as clean as when they entered. P.S. I’m not alone in my quest for clean.  The blog, Vegan Cinephile did a post called, “Yoga Cooties: My favorite green cleaning products.”  You had me at cooties, VC.

Travel kit & survival tactics (think 

Ok, so we’ve got day to day covered, now here’s where it will either seem over the top or enlightening. Either way I’m arming you with ideas.  Travelling and public places are a whole other ball of ear wax. I don’t touch handles, particularly escalator handles. I flush public toilets with my feet,  I open bathroom doors with a paper towel, I use hand eco-friendly hand sanitizer and I’ve been known to bust out the Clorox green cleansing wipes to wipe down a cafeteria table.  Don’t get me started on the public pens we use to sign everything… Accept it. I have. Let’s put it this way, if you could see germs, you’d wash your hands.

Germaphobic Yogi’s Travel Kit Essentials

Hotels & airplanes propel us into yet another dimension of protection & safety. So, here’s what I take with me when I’m traveling and know I’ll be staying in a hotel (you’ll thank me later).

  • Clorox green wipes – You never know who was in the airplane seat or touching the hotel room remote before you.
  • Hand sanitizer – Self-explanatory.
  • Resealable plastic bags – Use these to store your shoes in a suitcase so you’re not transferring microbes to your clothes and toiletries. Plus you can seal up dirty laundry or any linens you brought from home.
  • Tissues – Keep your own germs to yourself.  Be the solution.
  • Allergy pillow protectors – I zip up hotel pillows with an allergen protecting cover and bring my own pillow cases.
  • Travel Lysol – I do spray down surfaces in case housekeeping wasn’t thorough.
  • Talcum powder – I’ve seen a variety of sources that suggest sprinkling talc as it acts like diatomaceous earth which bed bugs are resistant to.
  • Vitamin C, Echinacea &  Zinc – I do up my intake of vitamins prior to travel to give my immune system a boost.
  • iPhone white noise app – A good night’s sleep is key to staying healthy and hotel noise can be distracting.

Of course, I recognize the need to expose myself to bacteria so that I can build up a tolerance, which happens all the time (unless you truly live in a bubble), but that doesn’t mean I have to leave myself completely vulnerable. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come face to face with one of your quirks and celebrate it.  We are who we are, warts and all. Happy cleansing.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Yelltale Blog)

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Don’t look for thoughts where there are none

let it go balloon

Have you ever been merrily going about your business, perhaps living purely in the moment, when your unconsciousness interjects with some type of made up problem? Perhaps you thought you’d moved on from an earlier problem, only for your mind to bring it back up to the surface, like a jealous childhood friend who gets jealous over your contentedness, and looks for ways to hijack your happiness. Sometimes it’s hard for us to ‘just be.’  I mean to say, that we spend so much time focusing on what’s wrong and how to fix it, we don’t know what to do when our mind takes a break. And, we even go looking for problems sometimes.

If you don’t know what I mean, maybe you’ve observed this in a co-worker, family member or friend who only seems to be happy when there’s something to be unhappy about. Once upon a time, I worked with a few of these people. It’s as if they truly don’t know how to enjoy the peace of stillness. Like their brain is telling them, “Wait there’s nothing wrong right now, what’s wrong?  There must be something I’m supposed to be upset about right now.  No? Well, let’s find something.” This isn’t a judgement of their character, but of our upbringing in general. Let’s face it, we’re a society of scab-pickers who can’t leave well enough alone.

For the over-analytical population (myself included) we have a tendency to exhaust ourselves looking for the thoughts that feed our emotions, when truly we are neither thought or emotion.  And, by simply bringing awareness to an emotion or a feeling that arises enables us to come into the present. Being with the feelings IS presence, aversion is not.

This happened to me the other morning, I was getting ready for work after my morning practice, and noticed that I was feeling anxious. So rather than going on a thought-spelunking mission which would inevitably take me out of the moment and likely cause more pain, I decided just to sit with the feeling for what it was.  Eventually, it went away.  As I became the watcher of all that’s happening with this body and mind, I’m able to witness be-ing. This doesn’t mean that we’ll never feel pain, rather with observance and the practice of letting go of attachment AND aversion, we become the self beyond thought. And that is bliss.

“All problems are illusions of the mind.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: Pinterest)